Outstanding volunteers recognized at Central MA Heart and Stroke Ball

The 2020 Central Massachusetts Heart and Stroke Ball was held on Saturday, February 29 at Mechanics Hall as a celebration of the mission, passion, work, and life-saving achievements of the American Heart Association.

Megan Wiggins of Acton shared her story of surviving a stroke at 23 and why everyone needs to know “FAST.

The Association recognized its remarkable community of volunteer advocates, champions and leaders at this event which was attended by more than 300 attendees. The funds raised will support the Association’s innovative and life-changing work that enables people from all walks of life to live longer, healthier lives.

The Ball was co-chaired by Ava Jo Collins, Chief Operating Officer at Saint Vincent Hospital, and David T. Przesiek, Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer at Fallon Health. “The Central Massachusetts Heart and Stroke Ball happens one night a year, but it’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the work we have accomplished together over the past year,” said Collins. “Heart disease is still the number 1 killer of all Americans, with stroke ranking fifth. We know it’s going to take communities around the country – in particular, our community – to help us save more lives.”

The Association recognized and celebrated excellence in heart and stroke science, research, health care, treatment and community involvement by honoring three people with the “Heart of Gold” award.

Dr. Phyllis Pollack, a pediatric cardiologist with MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Worcester, was awarded for her work providing world-class pediatric cardiology care to her patients since 1983 and also brought fetal echocardiography (imaging a baby’s heart in utero) to Worcester County.

Dr. Jordan Eisenstock, a neurologist with Community Neuroscience Services, was awarded for being a consistent and tireless advocate for stroke patients and for his  substantial contributions toward supporting the Association’s mission to reduce disability and death due to stroke.

Colleen Ferguson, a physical education teacher in the Worcester Public School for over 25 years, was awarded for her work in inner-city elementary students. She teaches her own students about the importance of heart health, while serving as an ambassador to the 50 PE teachers in the Worcester Public Schools by sharing resources.

The speaking program concluded with a moving speech by Megan Wiggins of Acton, who suffered a stroke at age 23. She pointed out that, while strokes are decreasing overall, they are on the rise for younger adults.

“There’s a lot of work ahead to learn about stroke in young people and to help people of all ages to lower their risk and learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke,” said Wiggins. “I want everyone to learn FAST. It is the acronym that helps identify stroke symptoms:

F- Face Drooping;  A – Arm Weakness; S -Speech Difficulty; and T – Time to call 911.”

Top sponsors included: Country Bank, Fallon Health, Saint Vincent Hospital, and UMass Memorial Healthcare. Additional sponsors included: Alera Group; Community Neuroscience Services; Fairlawn Rehabilitation Hospital (an affiliate of Encompass Health); FLEXcon; The Meadows of Central MA; Commerce Bank, a division of Berkshire Bank; Reliant Medical Group; Robert D. Blute, Jr., Associates in Urology; Vibra Hospital of Western Massachusetts – Central Campus; and Webster Five. Media sponsors were: WXLO and Worcester Business Journal.

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